Monday, November 12, 2018

Bowcraft Amusement Park Appears to Have Closed for Good

It looks like it took a couple years longer than expected, but it seems that Bowcraft Amusement Park, located in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, has closed for good to be redeveloped into housing.

Back in 2016 the plan popped up to build 190 apartments and 10 town homes on the land that the amusement park occupies, but there hadn't been much development since then.  It seems that the plan was in place even further back, since Bowcraft was trying to sell their signature roller coaster as far back as 2009.

© Rides 4U
Currently, Rides 4U, a well known used ride company, is shopping the park's entire inventory as up for purchase.  There was also a recent vote by the Scotch Plains government to allow the amusement park's site to be redeveloped, though this article says that there is more planning to be done before things are final.  Plus, the park's website and Facebook page have been deleted.  It certainly seems as though with all these things combined, the park is done for good.

Bowcraft's largest ride is a Zierer roller coaster that opened in 2006, named Crossbow.  The family ride is now available for $499k, way down from the $1.7m they started at back in 2009.  Other listed rides include a Musik Express, Scrambler, Galleon, Frog Hopper, Tilt-a-Whirl and more.  Certainly a nice collection for parks looking for some gently used rides.

I'm not sure what the cost would be to relocate a ride like Crossbow, but for only $500k it seems like a good deal.  Perhaps we will see the ride show up at another park in the future.

© Google Maps

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 3rd Quarter 2018 Conference Call

Better late than never, let's take a look at Cedar Fair's 3rd Quarter 2018 earnings details and conference call.  Under the headline of posting record 3rd quarter revenues, the company released earnings that showed improvements from where they stood at the end of the 2nd quarter.  The market didn't necessarily love the results, however, so let's dig in and see what was noteworthy.

• For the 3rd quarter revenues were up to $664 million, up 2% over the prior year.  Out of park revenues increased $5 million or 8% and in park spending was up 2% to $49.47.  Attendance was down less than 1%, or 57,000 visits to 12.4 million.  In the end, EBITDA was up 1% or $4 million, to $338 million.  The company has also increased the annual dividend by 4%.

•  Looking at year-to-date results through the end of October, when most of the chain's parks are closed for the season, revenues were up $9 million or 1%.  The in-park per capita spending stayed up 1%, out of park revenues were up 5% or $6 million and attendance was down 1%, or 185,000 visits.

© Cedar Fair
•  With continued success from Winterfest, the company hopes to post record attendance, making up the 1% they were down at the end of October.  This year will be the first season for Kings Dominion's event, joining four existing parks.  The company has already seen their test park, California's Great America, grow each year since the event started.

•  Cedar Fair has been trying to mitigate bad weather (they noted this year has had plenty of it) by working with groups to reschedule events.  Kings Dominion, for instance, rescheduled two park buy outs when Hurricane Florence closed the park for an entire weekend.  They also saw pent up demand from especially bad weather in July which led to some increases in August and September.

•  Focusing on costs has helped lead to the quarter's results.  The parks have hit higher "net promoter score" ratings while keeping costs below budget during the bad weather periods.  Cedar Fair is currently working on a new workforce management system to more efficiently utilize labor during the year.  That will first roll out at Knott's Berry Farm and California's Great America.

•  Season pass sales continue to be up for Cedar Fair.  At the end of the 3r quarter deferred revenue was up 20% from last year, to $102 million - every park is ahead in season pass sales versus last year.  In the past 5 years the percentage of overall company visits by pass holders has gone up from one third to over one half currently.

© Cedar Fair
•  The 2019 capital plan seems nearly fully announced at this point, with the star attractions being roller coasters at Carowinds and Canada's Wonderland.  Other additions include "more immersive, multi-week special events, including nighttime spectacular celebrations in the first-half of the year."  I have not seen details of that type of event released yet for any park, should be interesting to hear more.  Winterfest will also open in 2019 at Canada's Wonderland.

•  Cedar Fair still has 1,400 developable acres of land adjacent to its parks.  It is still working to develop more of that, with three projects opening in 2019/2020: the indoor sports center near Cedar Point, and hotels adjacent to Carowinds and Canada's Wonderland.

•  This is the first year some parks (only a handful) are offering a 12 months payment period for season passes.  The response is significant, and they're looking at it closely as the passes potentially move to a membership plan like Six Flags does.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Heard On... SeaWorld Entertainment's Q3 2018 Earnings Call

This past week SeaWorld Entertainment released their 3rd quarter, 2018 earnings and it looks like the turnaround of the company continued through the summer season.  The park put out a press release covering the news, but also held their usual investor conference call with some additional information.  Here are some notes on both:

•  During the third quarter of 2018 the company had 8.3 million visitors, up from 7.6 million in the period the year before.  Total revenues were $483 million, up 10% from last year.  Perhaps most importantly, EBITDA was up 22% for the quarter to $212 million.

•  This quarter helps cement a solid year so far.  Looking at the first 9 months of the year, attendance stands at 17.98 million, up 8.7% from last year, revenues are up 9.5% to 1.09 billion, and EBITDA is up 35% to $337 million.

•  SeaWorld believes the improved results are from a combination of "new strategic pricing initiatives, new marketing and communication initiatives and the positive reception of our new rides, attractions and events."  The EBITDA margin grew even further through continued cost reductions and more efficient operations.

© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
•  Special events appear to be aiding in the company turning the corner.  This summer saw Electric Ocean at SeaWorld Parks and Summer Nights at Busch Gardens parks.  Bier Fest debuted in Texas and Tampa Bay and returned again to Virginia.  The free beer promotion was also a home run at the Florida parks and is returning in 2019.

•  Season pass sales have remained strong.  The company debuted new pass structures for 2019 just a few weeks ago with the aim of giving "more value, flexibility and the most comprehensive benefits package they've ever offered."  Through 2018 revenue from season pass sales has increased at least 10%, with deferred revenue currently up 15%.

© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
•  Specifically regarding Infinity Falls at SeaWorld Orlando, while very late the company has seen "outstanding" guest ratings of the ride.  The lateness really seemed to make them take a look at their attraction development, to make sure that new attractions open on time in the future.

•  In-park revenue per cap also continues to grow as the parks hold special festivals that have resulted in higher product demand of both retail and culinary items.

•  When pressed about the search for a new CEO, the company didn't give much of an answer other than saying the Board is still searching.

© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
 •  The company sees their 2019 new attraction line-up as their biggest ever, with some new at nearly every park.  These include the Tigris roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa, Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando, Tidal Twister at SeaWorld San Diego, the new Turtle Reef area with two rides at SeaWorld San Antonio, a new thrill slide at Aquatica San Antonio, Finnegan's Flyer thrill ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and the Cutback Water Coaster at Water Country USA.

•  With increased results comes more cash on the books and SeaWorld was asked if they plan to start paying a dividend again, or complete stock repurchases.  The company said they're working on what the best plan is but haven't committed to anything yet.

© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
•  SeaWorld is still planning on changing the presentation of the Orca show in Texas and Florida as they did in California.  However, they learned that they can't close the show in between and are still planning the change it next in Texas in a year or so.

•  The company has revamped their capital expenditure budgets to make sure that each park gets new attractions more often.  The company seeing lodging as a long-term priority, but for now it is not and has actually dropped their deal to build a hotel at SeaWorld San Diego.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Steel Curtain Begins to Rise at Kennywood

© Kennywood
The start of vertical construction is always such an exciting time in roller coaster construction!  All the planning, designing, fabrication, and work on footings come together to make a brand new ride start to rise over its new home.

Such is the case at Kennywood, where this week The Steel Curtain, the park's enormous new roller coaster for 2019, start to be built.  A part of the all-new Steelers Country themed area, the custom designed steel roller coaster will eventually stand 220 feet tall.

© Kennywood
And to allow for that height, some seriously large supports are needed.  That's what we can see in these photos, released by the park, in the form of brilliant yellow base supports.  The size of the columns is staggering, just take a look at the person in this photo for comparison.  The Steel Curtain will have around 4,000 feet of track and hit a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour.

© Kennywood
Each day some additional supports were lifted into place, picking up the pace of construction.  The support structure for The Steel Curtain is quite complicated due to the ride's twisted layout.  In the course of the ride passengers will flip through nine inversions, a record for any coaster in North America.

Kennywood also shared this video of the very first support for the ride going into place.  It appears as though nearly all the footers for the coaster are in place, meaning that vertical construction can continue at a quick pace.  The ride is already visible from outside the park, and it's only going to grow taller, a lot taller!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Silver Dollar City Ushers in The Year of Shows and Festivals for 2019 Season

Coming off a blockbuster year that saw the opening of Time Traveler, a wild new spinning roller coaster, Silver Dollar City has announced that in 2019 the park will celebrate with a full year of exciting new shows and festivals.

The park is already well known for their live entertainment offerings, and in announcing their 2019 lineup they are showing that they are doubling down on that history.  Silver Dollar City is investing millions of dollars into "new and original productions, larger-than-life shows and festival adventures."

 “We are, and always will be, respectful to our roots of presenting great crafts, unique music and family-friendly shows,” said Brad Thomas, President of Silver Dollar City Attractions. “This coming year, we will add many colorful layers, boldly building a new era of entertainment into our traditions.

© Silver Dollar City
Opening in summer of 2019, the park's new $1 million production, "Reuben's Swashbuckling Adventure," is sure to be a hit with visitors.  This "Broadway-style musical is a magical journey of discovery with a colorful cast, flying characters, state-of-the-art sets and special effects."  Concept art for the production's stage can be seen above.

Other new Summer productions include a show called Kid Magic, featuring Kadan Bart Rockett who is known as the world's youngest magician.  He is best known for making it to the semifinals of the 11th season of America's Got Talent.

© Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City's fall season is sure to be their biggest ever as they introduce Pumpkin Nights.  Art for the event can be seen above, and it is described as an "evening lighting event with thousands of pumpkin creations and larger-than-life icons including giant scarecrows, cats, owls and other characters shining in the dark."  The park will stay open until 9 pm during Pumpkin Nights, allowing guests to explore the new Pumpkin Pathway and Pumpkin Plaza along with events like a dance party, fall activities and night rides on their favorite attractions.

Other seasons will see exciting productions as well, including The Festival of Wonder taking place in the spring.  The festival includes shows such as Phoenix Fire, a black-light, laser and fire show, and CirqUnique, and all new circus-inspired show of extraordinary acts.

Come winter, the park's Old Time Christmas, with 6.5 million lights and a reputation as one of the country's finest holiday events, will return.  Shows during this time include A Dickens' Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life, Rudolph's Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, and more.

For more details on Silver Dollar City's year of Shows and Festivals, click here.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

SeaWorld Orlando Brings the Merry with Annual Christmas Celebration

With Halloween now in the rear-view mirror, several the country's year-round theme parks are already looking ahead to what's next... and that is Christmas!  Yes, it's not too soon to start to make holiday plans to visit their Christmas events, and SeaWorld Orlando's Christmas Celebration is one that's high on many lists.  In 2018 the event will expand with even more offerings than ever before.

Featuring more than 3 million sparkling lights, SeaWorld Christmas Celebration also offers "scrumptious food, stunning live shows, and joyful entertainment inspired by the natural world."  The event will run at SeaWorld Orlando on select dates starting November 17th through December 31s.

© SeaWorld Orlando
New for 2018, the park will offer Dine with Santa at Shamu Stadium.  Guests will be treated to "a warm-hearted holiday experience and meet Santa Claus as family memories are made at this all-new dining experience.  The buffet style dinner features a taste-tempting menu of traditional holiday favorites and delicious desserts."  Tickets for the meal can be purchased on the park's website.

The park's event also features numerous new live entertainment productions, including "O Wondrous Night," a live nativity scene that only SeaWorld can bring to life.  The production features 30 carols, life-sized puppets and animals and is told through the eyes of the animals.  "Winter Wonderland on Ice" is a production featuring "a stage of ice, jewels, and lights as skaters dazzle and delight in this show-stopping, ice skating extravaganza. A sea of sparkling trees and towering fountains dancing in the background come together to create a don’t-miss experience for the holidays that the entire family will enjoy."

© SeaWorld Orlando
Other shows premiering this year during during SeaWorld Christmas Celebration include "Sesame Street's Elmo's Christmas Wish" and "Shamu Christmas Miracles."

The popular Sea of Trees will return again this year, with more than 100 trees set on the park's main lake, each displaying dazzling images centered around the 70-foot tall main tree.  SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration will also see the return of Rudolph's ChristmasTown, with character meet and greet stations with Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble and Yukon Cornelius.

The event wouldn't be complete without some holiday food, and The Christmas Market will offer just that.  Many "delicious culinary delights" can be found at the Market, along with a model train village, entertainment, fire pits and even holiday cocktails.  And of course, Santa himself will be at the event meeting kids each day.

For more on 2018's SeaWorld Christmas Celebration, check out the park's official website.